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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

OUTSIDE CHINA                              327

Su Tungpo had once said to his brother: "Up above I can associate
with the Supreme Ruler of Heaven, and down on earth, I can associate
with poor folks. In my mind, there is not a single bad man in this
world." Now he was associated with humble, unknown scholars and
peasant men and women. He did not have to be guarded in his speech
with these simple people, and he was completely free and at his best.
He could not pass a day without having visitors in bis home, and iŁ
he did not, he had to go out and call on his neighbours. As during his
period at Huangchow, he mixed with high and low, scholars and
peasants. During conversations he usually took the floor; he simply
loved to talk. But he also wanted others to talk. Followed by his big
dog "Black Snout", a Hainan breed, he wandered where he liked.
Sitting under the pinlang palms with the good villagers, he wanted a
good chat. What could the poor ignorant peasants say to him? "We
don't know what to talk about," said the peasants, awed by this learned
scholar. "Then talk about ghosts. Come, tell me some ghost stories,"
said Su Tungpo. His interlocutors would say that they didn't know
any good ghost stories, and he said: "Never mind, just tell me anything
you've heard." Later Kuo told his friends that if his father failed to
receive visitors for a day, he would feel as if something ailed him.

But he was not yet to be left quite in peace even in this remote
region. The year 1098 was one when the persecution of the Yuanyu
scholars was raging at its height. Towards New Year's Eve, 1097, two
of the highest Yuanyu officials died within a week of one another under
suspicious circumstances. In spring the children of the two officials
who had died were also imprisoned, and the private secretary of the
Empress Dowager was condemned to death. Again there was a whole-
sale transfer of the banished officials to different places. Among those
who were transferred in the summer of the year were Tseyu, Chin
Kuan, and Cheng Shia, the palace gatekeeper who, we remember, had
succeeded in ousting Wang Anshih from the premiership.

In March the curious Taoist Wu Fuku turned up in Hainan again,
to remain with Su Tungpo for several months. He brought with him
the message that the court had sent Tung Pi to make a report upon,
and if necessary prosecute, the exiled officials. Tanchow belonged at
that time in Kwangsi province, and at first Lu Shengching, brother of
the notorious Huiching and bitter enemy of the Yuanyu officials, was
to be sent to this province. It meant sure disaster, if not death, for the
Su brothers. Tseng Pu and another official intervened and warned the
Emperor that to send Shengching would only be to encourage private
vengeance, since he could not be expected to make an impartial report.
It would mean that the government was willing to do the extreme. On
account of this intercession, Shengching was sent down to Kwang-
tung, while Tung Pi was sent to Kwangsi. Sure enough, Tung Pi